Cruz cam­paign ad dis­torts O’Rourke po­si­tion on protest

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - METRO & STATE - By W. Gard­ner Selby

Repub­li­can Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, striv­ing to de­fine his Demo­cratic chal­lenger be­fore vot­ers make up their minds, posted a cam­paign video sug­gest­ing that ri­val Beto O’Rourke gave public thanks for peo­ple who trample or burn the Amer­i­can flag.

We con­firmed that O’Rourke, who rep­re­sents El Paso in the

U.S. House, re­cently fielded a ques­tion from a crowd mem­ber ask­ing about his po­si­tion on flag des­e­cra­tion. But O’Rourke’s re­ply didn’t di­rectly take that up; in­stead, O’Rourke re­vis­ited

his sup­port of non­vi­o­lent protests for civil rights and against po­lice mis­be­hav­ior.

Let’s cover Cruz’s claim, then turn to the ques­tion posed to O’Rourke and what O’Rourke said in re­ply.

The 25-sec­ond video by Cruz’s cam­paign opens by show­ing O’Rourke stand­ing with a mi­cro­phone in front of Texas and U.S. flags as an au­di­ence mem­ber is heard say­ing that “the rea­son I ask this ques­tion is as a voter, I don’t know how I would feel to have my own elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­ing open to kneel­ing on the Se­nate floor or en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing acts that des­e­crate our Amer­i­can flag.”

Next, the video goes silent as text ap­pears: “Beto O’Rourke was asked his views on burning or des­e­crat­ing the Amer­i­can flag. This was his an­swer.” Then the video shows O’Rourke say­ing: “I think there is some­thing in­her­ently Amer­i­can about that. And so I’m grate­ful that peo­ple are will­ing to do that.”

We watched the full Face­book Live video of the ex­change at a town hall in El Paso and con­cluded that the Cruz cam­paign ver­sion was heav­ily edited and dis­torted O’Rourke’s an­swer.

Here’s the full ques­tion O’Rourke was asked: “My ques­tion is with re­gards to your re­mark that there is noth­ing more pa­tri­otic than for NFL play­ers, when dis­cussing NFL play­ers kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them. And I’m cu­ri­ous as to know if you hold the land­mark Texas Supreme Court case — well, the Supreme Court case Texas ver­sus John­son — to that same stan­dard, where a man was charged for burning and des­e­crat­ing an Amer­i­can flag on the state Capi­tol. And do you dis­agree with the dis­sent­ing opinion that the Amer­i­can flag is a uni­fy­ing sym­bol that should be re­spected and revered, as it plays no pol­i­tics? And I guess the rea­son I ask this ques­tion is, as a voter, I don’t know how I would feel to have my own elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­ing open to kneel­ing on the Se­nate floor or en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing acts that des­e­crate our Amer­i­can flag.”

And here is O’Rourke’s full re­ply: “My com­ments about there be­ing noth­ing more Amer­i­can were about be­ing — there’s noth­ing more Amer­i­can than stand­ing up for, or in this case kneel­ing for, your rights un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. When the women and men who are serv­ing in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria tonight, the gen­tle­man who served in Viet­nam — when they serve this coun­try, they’re not serv­ing a pres­i­dent, they’re not serv­ing a po­lit­i­cal party. They swear their al­le­giance to the Con­sti­tu­tion. This idea that we are a coun­try of laws and that no woman and no man is above or be­low those laws.

“When some peo­ple are treated dif­fer­ently be­cause of their race — and we’re re­minded of the fact that it is not just in the dis­tant past. For some­one born in 1972 such as I, that might be the Free­dom Riders in the 1960s who rode those Grey­hound buses through Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama and Ge­or­gia, and in so do­ing as African-Amer­i­can women and men, took their lives into their hands, put them on the line. And in many cases those who stood up for civil rights lose their lives in the process. Many were beaten to within an inch of their lives to en­sure bet­ter civil rights for ev­ery sin­gle Amer­i­can.

“They got us a lot closer than we were be­fore. Wit­ness the Vot­ing Rights Act from 53 years, the Civil Rights Act from 54 years ago. Those would not have been signed into law by Lyn­don Baines John­son if peo­ple had not protested, if Rosa Parks had not moved from the back of the bus to the front of the bus. If our young fel­low Amer­i­cans of dif­fer­ent col­ors did not have the au­dac­ity and the bold­ness and the courage to sit at lunch coun­ters know­ing that they would be hu­mil­i­ated, know­ing that they would be spat upon, know­ing that they would be dragged out in front of their fel­low hu­man be­ings. They did all of that to stand up for the equal treat­ment un­der law of ev­ery­one.

“Now, part of the ge­nius of this coun­try, and I think no one ex­presses it more bril­liantly than Martin Luther King Jr., is that in the face of in­jus­tice, in the face some­times of vi­o­lence, in the face of the very real pos­si­bil­ity that you will lose your life in the process, peo­ple have been will­ing to non­vi­o­lently and peace­fully protest to seek po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions to other­wise in­tractable prob­lems.

“When you have un­armed black men in this coun­try all too of­ten be­ing killed, and some­times be­ing killed by mem­bers of law en­force­ment — and those mem­bers of law en­force­ment — as I see a for­mer chief of po­lice for the El Paso Po­lice Depart­ment, a for­mer county com­mis­sioner, some­one who ex­em­pli­fies the best in public ser­vice — those are among the very tough­est jobs that any­one in any com­mu­nity can hold. Those are also peo­ple who put their lives on the line, se­cur­ing and pro­tect­ing their fel­low cit­i­zens in these com­mu­ni­ties.

“But when there is use of force, when there is a life taken and there is not ac­count­abil­ity, there is not jus­tice done, there’s not the abil­ity to pre­vent that from con­tin­u­ing to hap­pen in the fu­ture, and some­one is will­ing to call at­ten­tion to that, to try to awaken our con­science, to force us to do the right thing, in the face of that in­jus­tice and vi­o­lence and to do so peace­fully and non­vi­o­lently — I think that there is some­thing in­her­ently Amer­i­can about that. And so I’m grate­ful that peo­ple are will­ing to do that. I un­der­stand that peo­ple can come down to a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion on this is­sue, and I re­spect that, as well. That’s Amer­i­can as well. But those are my feel­ings on the is­sue, and I’m grate­ful for the ques­tion.”

We asked O’Rourke’s cam­paign whether he had aired a more di­rect an­swer on flag burning. The cam­paign pointed out a Sept. 4 Cor­pus Christi Caller-Times news story quot­ing O’Rourke af­ter an Aug. 27 event in Austin: “I don’t think any­one should burn an Amer­i­can flag. I also don’t think this is about flags. It’s about peo­ple’s lives. It’s about civil rights. It’s about making sure that ev­ery­one has an op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed and that there is jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity for ev­ery­one in this coun­try.”

Our rul­ing

Cruz said that O’Rourke said he’s grate­ful that peo­ple are burning or des­e­crat­ing the Amer­i­can flag.

Cruz’s video dis­torts O’Rourke’s an­swer when asked to speak to a Supreme Court rul­ing that up­held the right to des­e­crate the flag in non­vi­o­lent protest. O’Rourke didn’t even ad­dress flag burning in his an­swer, in­stead fo­cus­ing on his sup­port of protests for civil rights and other causes. O’Rourke ear­lier said he didn’t think any­one should burn an Amer­i­can flag.

We rate Cruz’s claim False.

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